For the late-to-arrive Equinox to compete in the tough 5-passenger crossover category, defined by such automakers as Honda and Toyota, it would need more refinement and style, as well as better fuel economy. The Equinox has certainly come a long way.
Now in its second generation, the 2014 Chevrolet Equinox is a true competitor within a highly competitive class of vehicles. Besides the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4, the Equinox has to contend with capable small crossovers such as the Ford Escape, Kia Sportage and Subaru Forester, among others.
Alongside its GMC counterpart, the Terrain, the Equinox is well rounded with equal strengths in quality, functionality and drivability. This sets it apart from competitors that excel only in certain areas. With the Equinox, you get a jack of all trades but, as the rest of the saying goes, a master of none. For a family-centric people mover, that can be a good thing.
The Equinox is a solid and competent choice in a growing sea of compact crossovers, making this segment one of the toughest for shoppers to wade through.
What's New for 2014?
Following major updates last year, the Equinox is unchanged for the 2014 model year.
What We Like
Quiet and comfortable ride; impressive fuel economy rating for base engine; refined look and feel; sliding rear seat; good storage space
What We Don't
Vague steering feel; busy control layout
Front-wheel- and all-wheel-drive Equinox models are powered by one of two engine choices. Standard is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that makes a sufficient 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. It sends power through a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel economy at 22 miles per gallon city/32 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive and 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.
A 3.6-liter V6 is optional for all trim levels except the base LS. Output is 301 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque -- a gain of 37 hp and 50 lb-ft over the old 3.0-liter V6. Front-wheel-drive Equinox V6 models are rated at 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy, while that rating falls to 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.
Standard Features & Options
The Equinox is offered in three trim levels -- base-level LS, mid-level LT and upscale LTZ.
The Equinox LS ($25,500) includes 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, keyless entry, OnStar, cruise control and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. An auxiliary input jack is also standard, as is a USB/iPod interface.
Upgraded LT models ($27,000) boast several big additions, including a standard rearview camera, a 7-in center-mounted touchscreen with Chevrolet's MyLink interface, Bluetooth audio and voice control for the infotainment system. The upgraded Equinox 2LT adds automatic climate control, heated front seats and a remote starter.
Topping the Equinox range is the leather-trimmed LTZ ($32,500), which boasts chrome 18-in wheels, a power lift gate, rear parking sensors and a power passenger seat. The luxurious Equinox LTZ also includes a lane-departure warning system and a forward collision alert system.
Equinox options include a navigation system, a sunroof, all-wheel drive and the muscular 3.6-liter V6 engine.
Besides six airbags, including 2-row head curtains, the Equinox comes with OnStar, which can alert emergency personnel in an accident.
Also strengthening the Equinox's passenger protection is ABS with brake assist, stability control and traction control. Plus, driver-assistance equipment such as lane-departure warning and forward collision alert systems are options on the 2LT model and included on the LTZ.
Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn't performed crash tests on the 2014 Equinox, the agency gave the largely similar 2013 model a 4-star overall rating. It received a 5-star score in side-impact tests, along with 4-star scores in rollover and frontal impact tests.
Behind the Wheel
Where power is concerned, the 4-cylinder Equinox is adequate for daily driving. This engine operates smoothly and without much drama. But it will labor a bit when the vehicle is loaded down with people and cargo.
With the new V6, the Equinox is much more spirited. It enjoys quick throttle response and good acceleration. Building up to highway speeds or making an aggressive left-lane pass is no problem.
Handling-wise, however, the Equinox is unexceptional at best. It's not particularly confident in corners, and the steering doesn't feel very well connected. This little compact crossover is by no means a driver's car, but it never promises that. Most buyers in this segment aren't looking for one anyway.
What they are looking for is a comfortable and quiet ride for daily commuting and weekend outings with the family. And that's just what the Equinox delivers.
Honda CR-V -- The CR-V offers more cargo capacity and advanced content, such as voice-command navigation. The CR-V and the Equinox provide equally comfortable transportation for five.
Toyota RAV4 -- The RAV4 is sportier, offering significantly better handling. It also offers more cargo space, plus the Equinox's ride quality is softer.
Ford Escape -- The Escape has more high-tech features (such as an automatic parking system) and an available hybrid model, but it lacks the versatility of a sliding rear seat. The Escape and the Equinox are comparable in overall refinement.
Kia Sportage -- The Sportage is sportier and more fun to drive than the Equinox. And the Kia has a longer list of features. But the Equinox offers more cargo room and a roomier second-row seat that slides and reclines.
The most sensible Equinox is the mid-range 2LT model powered by the 4-cylinder engine. The 2LT offers the best value of the three available trim levels. It's well equipped with such features as a standard backup-camera system and an upgraded touchscreen stereo, and can be equipped with MyLink and rear entertainment. Furthermore, the 4-cylinder provides adequate power combined with very good fuel economy. Unless you have a 3,000-lb boat to tow, it is a practical choice. For those living in cold climates, we recommend adding all-wheel drive to the package.